The Deliberate Agrarian Blogazine
March 2011

Dateline: 31 March 2011
“If You Detest Slavery......”
Yours truly next to the evaporator pan in our woodshed which doubles as a sugar shack in the spring.  The red ladder visible in the bottom corner is leaning against our house. This operation is right outside the back door. Very convenient. (click on pictures for a larger view)

In the 1825 edition of the Maine Farmer’s Almanac, the Farmer’s Calendar essay for March offers this odd bit of advice:
”If you detest slavery, preserve your sugar maples, keep them in good order, and attend seasonably with the fittest apparatus, to the making of your year’s sugar.”
I assume that the almanac editor is referring to the fact that sugar plantations of the West Indies, which were supplying cane sugar to America in the early 1800s, were being run with slave labor, and boycotting that sugar, by making your own maple sugar, would be an economic protest against slavery.

But I think that old advice has a perfectly appropriate modern application too. After all, most Americans today are slaves to the industrial system, working for it and looking to the industrial providers to supply their food needs. Therefore, we could paraphrase the old admonition as follows: 
”If you detest slavery, acquire some good land, along with the tools and knowledge needed to garden, and grow all your own food that you can.”
I know, I say this sort of thing all the time. But food self-reliance and industrial-rat-race-independence is important to me—because I hate slavery.

All of which brings me to this year’s backyard maple syrup operation here at our little homestead in the Finger Lakes region of New York state. As you can see in the above picture, we keep it real simple. I find a particular delight in making maple syrup using inexpensive jerry-built equipment. We’ve made our own maple syrup this way for more that ten years (I’ve written at length about the specifics of our operation HERE).

In the early years, as we were developing our system and learning how to make maple, our three sons helped; it was a great family activity. But one son is now away in the military and the other two, at 16 and 20 years old, are away from home much of the time, pursuing their own pursuits. So Marlene and I made maple syrup by ourselves this year.
Marlene is the fire tender and sap boiler. She can keep an eye on the status of the boil from a window in the house and easily add wood to the fire as necessary.
I think making maple syrup together, on a small scale, right outside the door of your house, is good for a marriage. It is a lot of work but we've had fun. You can’t have this kind of marital cooperation, shared enjoyment, and satisfaction by handing over $50 for a gallon of maple syrup made by someone else.

My specialty is getting the equipment set up, tapping the trees (I tapped 32 this year), and collecting the sap. Marlene’s specialty is tending the fire and boiling the sap down to syrup, and she is very good at it. The hotter the fire, the faster the boil. The smaller the firewood pieces, the hotter the fire. So this year I was treated to something I’ve never seen before—Marlene splitting wood.

I took pictures of the occasion, but I am forbidden to show them here because Marlene does not want all of you out there to think she is some sort of an unfeminine he-woman. So no action shots are allowed. But I can show you this one...

Marlene discovered that splitting wood can heat a body up on a cold day. No need for the scarf when you get to that point (I love it when she smiles at me like that)

And here is a picture of the finished product...

This is freedom in a quart
All told, we have made 9 gallons of maple syrup. It looks like we might get another boil or two in before the season is over.

Mr. Murphy & 
The Nuclear Hubris

Thirty-two years ago I was a student at a New York State University. It was the 1970s. A heightened state of psycho-decadence prevailed on campus, but I made a conscious decision not to participate. I went to the library instead. No kidding. Marlene (then my girlfriend) will attest to this. I have an affinity for libraries and spent a lot of hours there. After all, it was college (a.k.a., “higher learning”). I wanted to know more and understand more about all kinds of things, and I had the time to spare (those were the days!). One of the things I remember wanting to know about was nuclear energy.

A couple years before, while attending the Grassroots Project in northern Vermont (now Sterling College), I knew a kid who went one weekend to protest at the Seabrook nuclear power plant, which was then under construction in southern New Hampshire. He never came back to school. The rumor was that he was in jail. I wanted to know what it was that motivated him to do that.

So I delved into the subject of nuclear power and learned all about the possible and probable dangers. I came to the firm conviction that nuclear power was a foolish and dangerous technology. This was before Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and the recent meltdown in Japan. I dare say, all of these disasters were to be expected.

Anyone who honestly looks at the facts of nuclear power technology, and who understands Murphy’s Law, will come to the conclusion that nuclear accidents are inevitable.

And if the honest looker of facts cares to conclude one step further, he must decide for himself if the inevitable pain, suffering, death, and destruction caused by nuclear power accidents is justified. Amazingly, there are plenty of people who are of the mind that it is justified. They believe the “good” of the many outweighs the human rights of an unfortunate few. It’s too bad that we who disagree can’t opt out of the consequences; it would be far better if the anguish of nuclear power accidents befell only those who support the technology. But it doesn’t work that way.

One proponent of nuclear power who I recently spoke with defended the technology by reasoning that accidents happen with any technology. He asked me, if something went wrong with his car on the way to work, and he accidentally ran over a couple of people on the sidewalk, was that reason enough to not have cars?

I told him that if car accidents had the ability to sicken and kill thousands of people and render large regions of the earth a radioactive no-man’s-land for generations to come, then, yes, we should get rid of cars.

Then he told me America needs nuclear energy because we need more electricity in order to keep our economy expanding. I asked him how much is enough? I asked how long can an economy continue to expand in a world of finite resources? That was pretty much the end of the discussion. 

He had thought I was a conservative-minded person, taking my mental marching orders from the mainstream (pro-nuclear) conservative talk show hosts of the day, just as he does (though he doesn’t look at it that way). Well, it so happens that I am a conservative in my thinking, and I agree with some of the things those people say, but I also disagree with some of them. I don’t toe to anybody’s party line. That’s the way it is when you hold to a biblical-agrarian worldview in the midst of an secular-industrial world. I don't fit in. In some ways I am a pariah.

The thought that there might be a limit to economic growth does not set well in the mind of most Moderns. It is almost too horrible to contemplate. So, as a result, people have a lot of half-baked notions about what Obama or the government in general should be doing to solve the problem of our economy going down the toilet. They think it is possible to crank up economic growth and prosperity like we once had in this country.

Clearly, America is in denial. That happens to be the first stage of the five stages of grief popularized by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying. Although the Kubler-Ross model addressed the stages of grief a person typically goes through when confronted with something like a terminal illness, it also holds true for our industrialized civilization facing terminal illness.

After denial comes anger, then bargaining, then depression, then acceptance. Personally, I think I have pretty much skipped the first four stages and gone directly to acceptance. It’s not a bad place to be, though it makes conversation with those in denial difficult. But I digress. This is about nuclear power.....

It has occurred to me that nuclear power proponents fall into three categories. There are the Star-Trek-addled science worshipers, firmly convinced that we must go where no man has gone before. Then there are the many who, in some way or another, work in the nuclear industry (few people are inclined to bite the hand that feeds them). And then there is the vast ignoranti of sheeple propagandized by the powerful allied trinity of media, industry and government; our civilization has been superbly brainwashed for generations to believe that nuclear power is a clean and safe modern miracle.

And then, POP goes Fukushima. Now we have ourselves another perfectly obvious example of how nuclear power is neither clean nor safe. It never has been. That’s a lie. It’s a lie exposed. It’s a lie plain and simple. It’s a lie even without taking into account the even more obvious dangers of radioactive nuclear waste, which remains dangerous for thousands of years, and there is no safe way to get rid of it (how's that for a legacy to our children and grandchildren!).

To find some truth in this matter we need only to follow the money. The nuclear power industry is profitable to those who not only work in that industry (as I’ve already mentioned) but also for those who own stock in the corporations that build and operate the nuclear reactors. Most people can overlook a lot of unpleasant details when there is money to be made (and especially if it can be made without doing any actual work).

It is also profit without personal responsibility. Will individual stockholders in the Japanese nuclear power companies bear responsibility for the harm done by their nuclear power plant gone berserk? No. They will lose money, but they will bear no personal liability for their complicity. That is, of course, the “beauty” of corporations. Would stockholders invest in nuclear technology if they could be held personally responsible to the damages? Not a chance. Only a fool would do such a thing. And only a foolish nation would allow such a thing.

The fundamental problem we have here is not nuclear power as much as it is greed and hubris.

I’ve heard that the Obama administration is unwavering in its support for nuclear power as a solution to greenhouse gas emissions and America’s energy independence. Huh? What about defending the defenseless, punishing evildoers, and protecting individual rights to life, liberty, and property? Aren’t those the most important responsibilities of a legitimate government? But, alas, government is subject to corporate greed and hubris too.

So now, as radioactive contamination from Fukushima  continues to despoil the land, the air, and the ocean, the nuclear industry is in damage control. It’s time to round up the usual industry experts and fellow travelers to reassure the gullible masses that everything is going to be okay. There’s nothing to worry about. We will learn from the mistakes of Fukushima. We will tweak our systems to make nuclear power even safer. It can’t happen here. We won’t let it. We know best. Don’t worry. Be happy. 

This is, after all, what the masses want to hear from the great minds that lead them.

Of course, the Japanese nuclear industry, in cahoots with  government, gave it’s subjects exactly the same assurances—before Mr. Murphy showed up.

How I Stopped The State of New York From Putting A Nuclear Waste Dump in Cortland County
(well, sort of)

Who would want a nuclear waste dump in their neighborhood? Not me. Probably not you. And I’ll bet precious few of those people saying how safe nuclear power is would want a nuclear waste dump in their “back yard.” But back in 1989 the State of New York came up with a plan to build such a dump in Cortland County, which borders the county I live in. The small city of Cortland is only a half hour drive from my house.

The rural communities of America are considered prime locations for industrial-age dumps of all kinds, and such communities are often not very good at resisting the attacks once they’ve been targeted. But Cortland county was an exception. There was a groundswell of public opposition to the idea (Read This for some perspective).

At one point, the state had a public hearing at Cortland State college. Hundreds of people showed up, including me. Law enforcement was there in large numbers and everyone had to go through a metal detector. No guns allowed. Yes, indeed, people were upset.

I didn’t speak. I listened and watched and came to the same conclusion as most everyone else—the hearing was a sham and would have no bearing on the outcome. The state was going to do what it wanted, and it wanted to let the corporations put their toxic waste in Cortland County.

A few weeks after the public hearing, it looked even more like the government was going to do what it wanted. That’s when I got the idea to write a letter to the editor of the Cortland Standard newspaper. In my letter I presented a viable solution to the problem that I had not heard anyone publicly suggest.

The paper published my letter. A very short time later the State of New York announced that it decided not to go through with the plan. Coincidence? Yeah, probably. But I like to think that my letter had a powerful impact on the decision makers in Albany.

In my editorial I pointed out that the highest law enforcement authority in the county was the sheriff. I explained that the sheriff’s responsibility was to protect the people of his county, and I made it clear that the sheriff had the legal authority to deputize citizens to help him if the need arose. Then I suggested that if the Sate of New York went through with its nefarious intentions, the sheriff should deputize as many concerned citizens of the county as he needed in order to occupy and defend the dump site. I surmised that the sheriff would have no problem at all assembling an armed posse of local men who would be willing to defend the land, their homes, and their families against anyone who would attempt to establish a nuclear dump site.

There was not a doubt in my mind that a lot of men really would have been willing to do exactly that. And, though I will never know what impact my editorial actually had on the outcome, I like to think that any governor would throw in the towel if faced with an insurrection by angry citizens standing on the moral high ground. That’s what happened. That’s my story. And I’m sticking to it.

Panic Buying vs Prudent Buying
Some controversial little pills!

The big Japanese quake hit on March 11. The next day I went on the internet to see if I could find out the expiration date on potassium iodide pills. I discovered it was seven years. So the stock of potassium iodide pills I bought for my family in 1998 were long expired. That being the case, I went to and found a supplier selling iOSAT brand potassium iodide tablets for seven dollars. That’s seven dollars for fourteen tablets, which is sufficient to protect an adult’s thyroid from radioactive iodine for two weeks. Seven dollars. I bought a fresh supply. No problem. Two days later, Americans had bought up all the available potassium iodide in the country. The only place with any potassium iodide to sell was Ebay, where the same seven dollar packets of pills were selling for as much as $300.

The media was apoplectic. Doctors were in front of the cameras and on radio saying these pills were absolutely unnecessary. They were concerned that people were going to be taking them when they didn’t need to be taking them. They warned that there were serious side effects. People who bought potassium iodide pills were characterized as foolish.

Well, I've got news for the media. All those people buying potassium iodide pills are not going to take the pills if they don’t need to. We are just being prudent. We understand that nuclear power is a dangerous technology and that nuclear power plants are not 100% safe, and practically everyone in this country is downwind from a nuclear power plant. And we realize that when something eventually does go horribly wrong in one of these facilities somewhere in America, government and industry will not tell us the truth. They have a vested interest in not telling the truth, at least not right away. Besides that, the government does not have enough potassium iodide to protect everyone who could be in danger.

The way it looks to me, the mainstream media gets a collective wedgie whenever people think for themselves and make decisions in their best interests, apart from what the manipulators of public opinion tell them they should believe.

I think this country would be better off if everyone kept a supply of their own potassium iodide. You can learn about the pills and purchase them from the manufacturer (for $10) At This Link.

The Industrial Order 
vs God’s Order
 Every so often I feel the need to reiterate and expound upon the differences between Christian agrarianism, which I espouse, and the industrial order, which I oppose. This is one of those times...

I see industrialism as a usurper, taking, reshaping and reordering all aspects of life as God designed it. The antithesis between God’s order and the industrial order is enormous.

Where God designed simplicity, the industrial order imposes complication. Where God established the beauty of diversity, the industrial order demands uniformity. Where God, for his own sovereign purposes, established inequity, the industrial order declares that there must be equality. Where God mandates decentralization, the industrial order mandates centralization. Where God has declared that man must work and live by the sweat of his brow, the industrial order endeavors to remove this requirement. Where God has said to look to Him as the source and provider of all good things, the industrial order supposes that it will supply all good things, and that all people must be dependent on the industrial providers. Where God thinks and acts multigenerationally, the industrial mindset cares little about the generations to come. Where God says for mankind to trust in Him, the industrial order says to trust in it. Where God has designed sustainability and economy within his creation, the industrial order disrupts, destroys, poisons and wastes creation. Where God created and defined what a family is and how it should function, to best serve Him, the industrial order has redefined and reordered the family, to best serve the industrial interests. Where God declares that a full and rich life does not consist in the accumulation of things and riches, the industrial order loudly declares just the opposite. And, finally, where God has declared what is good and evil and has decreed that there will be consequences for sin, industrialism neither recognizes sin nor believes it has any responsibilities under God.

Everywhere you look, and the closer you look, you will see that we in the industrialized nations of the world have been and are being manipulated by powerful industrial forces that are totally opposed to God’s order. The challenge, for those who care, for those who feel a higher calling, is to live as much outside and apart from the industrial paradigm as possible—to not be swept along in its tide, brainwashed by it’s reasoning, and consumed by its temporal pleasures. It’s a real challenge.

Agrarian Nation
A New Beginning
The manuscript

As regular readers of this blog know,  I have been working since January to put together and publish a new book. That all changed in March. 

The book, titled Small Farm & Homestead Advisor— 1825 to 1900:  A Compendium of Wisdom For Successful Farming, Gardening & Living, Gleaned From 75 Years of Forgotten Farm Almanac Essays, will not be published in book form. It will, instead, be published in blog format, a little at a time.

This is a first for me. With every other book I’ve written I have latched onto it like a Pitbull and not let go until it was done. I assumed this book would be the same. But, with the project about 2/3 complete, I started feeling a strong conviction that I should NOT publish this book. When I told Marlene of my decision, she was surprised. She knows how I have been in the past with these things.

So, I will publish the old almanac excerpts, along with excerpts from old agricultural journals, in a new blog which I am calling Agrarian Nation.  Tomorrow morning, Monday, April 1, 2011, I will post the first installment to Agrarian Nation. If you go to that link now, you can read the Foreword and Introduction to Agrarian Nation. 

New posts will be published at Agrarian Nation every Monday and Friday morning.
Unlike the blog you are reading now (which will continue) Agrarian Nation will have very little of my personal exploits, opinions and ideas. It will, instead, focus primarily on unearthing and publishing excerpts from the old writings. It will aim to educate with original-source writings from 1825 to 1900. Sometimes I will provide a little commentary.

That's my plan, and I'm committing to do it for at least one year. After that amount of time, I will decide if I should continue or not, based on how popular the blog is with readers. Excerpt by excerpt, with occasional informative essays, I think I have enough material to publish the blog for many years, and I hope that will be the case.
In time, if you enjoy the blog and find it worthwhile, I hope you will make a small donation to the effort. Unlike this blog, which has never solicited monetary contributions, I will welcome and appreciate them at

Great Depression Cooking 
with Clara

Clara is a 94-year-old woman who lived through the Great Depression and she is a YouTube star. She is featured there in many movies where she shows how to cook a particular dish that was eaten by her family during the depression years, and she tells stories of her life and family.

I don’t know how I happened upon Clara’s cooking movies but as I was watching one of them I couldn’t help but notice that she was using a bag of New Hope Mills flour. That really got my attention because I worked at New Hope Mills when I was a teenager and I know the family that owns the company.

Well, it turns out that Clara is something of a neighbor. She lives only 20 minutes from me in the town of Skaneateles. She is from the Chicago area but moved here in the 1980s, probably to be near her son and his family.

I think you will enjoy Clara’s movies.

My Belated Birthday Present

As mentioned last month, I bought myself a birthday gift. It is, as you can see in the above picture, a shoulder yoke. The yoke is hand carved out of a section of walnut tree. It is not only a useful tool but a work of art. I’m sure it is well over 100 years old, though I’m not sure it is 300 years old, as the person who sold it to me speculated. I was disappointed to find out it was cracked, but it works fine and I used it to carry buckets of maple sap from the woods to the elevated barrel-as-a-sap-storage-tank by our backyard syrup evaporator.

A 5-gallon bucket of maple sap weighs around 40 pounds. I have carried two at a time from the woods by hand in past years. It is not an impossible job for a healthy man to make 5 or six such trips with the buckets, but I’ve always wanted to try a shoulder yoke. I can tell you this simple, primitive tool makes the job MUCH easier. I am now a big fan of shoulder yokes.

The word "yokel" is used to describe an unsophisticated country person. It is a derogatory term that was probably coined by urban people who fancied themselves sophisticated. Well, I'm a yokel with my own yoke. And this picture shows my three-bucket yokel carrying technique.

I’m so convinced that the shoulder yoke is a great low-tech tool for the homestead that I started working on my own shoulder yoke design. In a flash of inspiration I envisioned a completely new style of shoulder yoke that can be made with basic tools and standard lumber in about an hour’s time, and cost less than $25 for wood and hardware. I made a prototype, put it to work, and was well pleased with it. Then I made another, thinking I could improve on the first design. But the first yoke was better. I have a couple more ideas I want to try before I unveil my Planet Whizbang shoulder yoke (a necessary tool for all yokels). You will want to stay tuned for that.

Amish Pioneers

I’ve mentioned here before that my maternal grandfather (the man on the cover of this book) was a potato farmer in Fort Fairfield, Maine, which is way up there in the northern part of the state. If you are not familiar with the area, you might think the land is all mountains and balsam forests, but it so happens that there is a lot of very nice farmland up there, and the countryside is beautiful.

Amish families from New York have migrated into the Fort Fairfield area in recent years. One of the first farms they bought was my grandparent’s place on Forest Avenue. My Aunt Carolyn recently sent me a 6-minute film clip about the Amish in Fort Fairfield. It is well done and provides you with some insights into the Amish, as well as a look at the countryside. Here’s a link to the movie: Bill Green Visits The Amish in Fort Fairfield

Industrialism, Feminism & Defending The Traditional Family
(a little history lesson)

This is Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1908 with Anna and James, two of their five children. Franklin is 26 years old in this picture . Thirteen years later, while vacationing at the family cottage in Canada, he suddenly and unexpectedly became paralyzed from the waist down. Eleanor and Franklin did not have the best of marriages. Nevertheless, they were advocates and defenders of the traditional family, and contrary to what many might think, Eleanor was not a feminist. She was a politically and socially active maternalist.

I have, by fits and starts, been making my way through The American Way: Family and Community in the Shaping of the American Identity. The book’s author, Allan Carlson, is a cultural historian who has authored several fine books, including The New Agrarian Mind, which was instrumental in helping to shape my agrarian understandings.

In Chapter Three of The American Way, Carlson talks about President Franklin D Roosevelt, his wife, Eleanor, and the New Deal programs of the Great Depression initiated by FDR’s administration.

I should preface what I’m about to write by reminding you that I define myself as a conservative (of the agrarian persuasion).  My opinion of FDR, who radically expanded the size and reach of government with his welfare programs (The New Deal), has never been very high.

Nevertheless, I have come to realize that many people (not all, but many) who are demonized by “The Right” actually have, or had, some halfway decent beliefs. I dare say, paradoxical, ironic, enigmatic thinking and actions are common to all men (and, of course, women). That is how it appears to me, though I’m sure there are some who would think that does not apply to them (!).

A case in point can be found in the aforementioned Chapter Three of Allan Carlson’s book. It was quite a surprise to me and if you continue reading, I think it may be quite a surprise to you. Here, from the beginning of the chapter is what Carlson has to say (the emphasis on the last sentence is mine):

”...the New Deal contributed the persona of Eleanor Roosevelt to American mythology, a prominent woman who is usually cited as blazing the trail for women in policy making roles. Husband Franklin, meanwhile, is commonly hailed as the very model of enlightened progressive liberalism. He also holds the role of chief twentieth-century villain in the American conservative narrative. Nonetheless, contemporary feminist authors find the couple and their New Deal work loathsome.

A person of “The Right” persuasion would naturally think that Eleanor Roosevelt, being a politically active woman, was a feminist, espousing equal rights for her gender. But, according to Allan Carlson, this is far from the case. He says of modern feminists, that their judgments of Eleanor Roosevelt "rest on barely contained fury.”

Carlson provides supporting quotes from several feminist activists, among them are one Gwendolyn Mink who asserts that leading New Deal women “collaborated with masculine policy makers in closing off [for women] the only avenues for independence in capitalist America; work and education.”

When Mink speaks of “New Deal women” she means Eleanor Roosevelt and a dedicated cadre of other politically active women who Carlson refers to as the “maternalists.” Of them Carlson writes:

”The American materialists of the 1920s were firm in their worldview. While accepting the inevitability of an industrial order, they endeavored to diminish its dehumanizing effects.”

These maternalist women, who Carlson identifies as primarily (though not exclusively) Christian, Protestant, and having a “Christian moral vision,” were persuaded that industrialization was destroying the traditional American family. That being the case, they stood as a bulwark against the feminist forces of that era.

As I read (and reread) the chapter, it became clear to me that the feminist movement of that day served the best interests of the industrial capitalists. It was they who stood to gain the most from more women moving into the job market. The industrial interests certainly had more to gain from the feminist movement than did children and families in general. One maternalist, Florence Kelly, said:

”If we value home life as we hypocritically say that we do, there would not be one of these young girls away from the family home in the dead of the night serving [as a phone operator], not because they serve it better than men would do, but because they are cheaper and because the interest of the stockholders and the bondholders of the corporation is of greater importance than the sacrifice of these young girls.”

The maternalists charged that the major feminist organizations of the day—the Woman’s Party—was financially supported by the National Association of Manufacturers, and this was never denied.

The maternalists believed that young girls should be encouraged to be mothers, not workers in factories and other businesses. Likewise, they focused on encouraging stay-at-home mothers to stick with the important work of being a mother. Again, I quote from The American Way:

”Maternity was the most important of human tasks, a service to the nation, the giving of new life to society. Industrialism, the maternalists held, must not be allowed to intrude. This meant that the mothers of children under the age of sixteen should not be employed. As the U.S. Children’s Bureau explained, “the welfare of the home and family is a woman-sized job in itself.” The maternalists argued that the entire economic system needed to be channeled or regulated to protect the integrity of motherhood. Florence Kelly, for example, condemned “the monstrous idea of having a night nursery” for the babies of working mothers, adding: “The mothers of young children cannot be sent away from home to do such work without the gravest social injury.”
”This respect for the special gifts of women led the maternalists to reject sexual equality as a dangerous abstraction. “The cry Equality, Equality, where Nature has created inequality, is as stupid and deadly as the cry Peace, Peace, where there is no peace,” said Florence Kelley.”

In n1930, the industrialist/feminist alliance found a friend in the administration of president Herbert Hoover. He created a “Research Committee on Social Trends.” The committee was composed of prominent social scientists of the day. Allan Carlson writes that the chief researcher, William F. Ogburn ....
...compared the old family system—which stood as “the chief economic institution, the factory of the time... the main educational institution”—with the new order where “the factory [has] displaced the family.” Modern America saw a falling birthrate and emptying schools as industrialized families were reduced to “the personality function” alone, providing “for the mutual adjustments among husbands, wives, parents, and children and for the adaptation of each member of the family to the outside world.” Ogburn showed that all other tasks—baking, sewing, canning, laundering, cooking, health care, child care, care of the elderly, child protection, security, education, amusement, recreation, and even religious activities—had passed or were passing to industrially-organized bodies, be they corporate, governmental, or charitable in nature. Many American homes had already become “merely ‘parking places’ for parents and children who spend their active hours elsewhere.”

So we see that the proper industrial model for American families required that the centuries-long paradigm of family life be radically altered. That paradigm, referred to by social scientists as the “family economy” was clearly agrarian— a mother, a father, children and perhaps extended family members all working together to provide the needs of the family. The interdependence, self reliance, and productivity of the traditional agrarian family had to be replaced with a new kind of family— a family dependent on the industrial providers and held together with the “personality function alone.” This was not just radical social engineering to benefit the industrial order, it was all out warfare against the family.

The “new” family would look outward to the marketplace for its values and human bonds. Industry, rather than family and father, would provide sustenance and meaning. Family autonomy and parental authority would give way to universal adult employment and a consumption-oriented lifestyle guided by advertising, one compatible with feminist ambitions.

The allied forces of industrialism, feminism, and the Hoover administration were formidable but...

Against these trends and ideologies, the maternalists chose to stand and fight.

Maternalist victories started coming when FDR was elected in 1933. The most influential of the maternalists in the Roosevelt administration was Francis Perkins, U.S. Secretary of Labor through all 12 years of Roosevelt’s presidency.

Perkins deplored the industrialist “attack” on family life: “I have seen the factory invading and breaking down the home... The poor people have a right to their homes the same as the rich, and we should not be allowed to enslave them to the form of industry which refuses them not only their liberty, but the wage they ought to have in return for the labor they perform.” Perkins steadfastly refused to be dragged into the equity feminist worldview. . . . As the Depression worsened, she denounced the working middle-class woman with an employed husband as a “pin money worker, a menace to society, [and] a selfish shortsighted creature who ought to be ashamed of herself.” Meanwhile, she urged policy ideas that would encourage marriage, support large families, and promote population growth.

As for Eleanor Roosevelt, a friend and ally of the maternalists, she believed...

”That every girl ought to marry and have a family;” that “the first ten years of a girl’s marriage, broadly speaking, should be devoted to the home;” and that “mothers with children at home should be discouraged from outside employment.”

As for FDR’s New Deal programs, they were, to the chagrin of feminists, heavily influenced by maternalist ideology. I should make it clear that the feminists and the maternalists both advocated welfare-state programs, but the maternalists embraced and defended the idea of the traditional family, supported by a father making a wage that was fair enough to provide for his family, without the mother having to go to work too. On the other hand, the feminists looked for inspiration to the Swedish example:

Indeed, the emerging Swedish welfare state of the 1930s gave highest priority to the social liberty and equality of the individual, especially in matters of gender. In its ideal construct, women and men were to be independent actors, with no bonds beyond those of freely shared affection. Dependency would vanish from human relations; instead, all persons would be equally dependent on the state. This was a welfare state that a feminist could embrace with enthusiasm.”

There is much more to this story but I have, thanks to Allan Carlson’s book, belabored it sufficiently (this was from just a few pages out of the whole volume). My main point here is that corporate-industrial forces, with the help of government forces, have been working for a long time to destroy the family. And it would appear that the so-called feminist movement has been a useful tool to the industrial order. You get the idea, and now you have some historical understanding that you probably did not have before. 

This picture from 1909 shows women working at the H.J. Heinz can factory. The machines they are working at punch out metal discs for the can ends.
In next month’s Deliberate Agrarian blogazine, I hope to write about a little-known New Deal program (heavily influenced by the maternalists) that was profoundly agrarian and focused on preserving the traditional family. It was, unfortunately, another welfare-state scheme, and as such it was destined to failure, but among such schemes I think this one came closest to doing some genuine and lasting good. I dare say Thomas Jefferson would have been impressed. 

A Parting Quotation

"A person dependent on somebody else for everything from potatoes to opinions may declare that he is a free man, and his government may issue a certificate granting him his freedom, but he will not be free. He is that variety of specialist known as a consumer, which means that he is the abject dependent of producers. How can he be free if he can do nothing for himself? What is the First Amendment to him whose mouth is stuck to the tit of the “affluent society”? Men are free precisely to the extent that they are equal to their own needs. The most able are the most free."
–Wendell Berry, “Discipline and Hope” in A Continuous Harmony (1972)